W.E.B. Du Bois

Masonic Biographies

W.E.B. Du Bois

Born: Sunday, 23 February 1868
Died: Tuesday, 27 August 1963

As a Freemason, educator, and activist, W.E.B. Du Bois was a champion of the rights of the oppressed and bringer of the Masonic virtue of Equality.

One of the greatest strengths of Freemasonry, resulting in its mysteries being perpetuated through the centuries, has been its ability to look beyond the arbitrary divisions imposed on human beings by the social currents of the time. At all times throughout history, Masonic Lodges have existed as spaces of complete equality where men and men of seemingly opposing views have been united on the level.

W.E.B. Du Bois, a champion of the rights of oppressed peoples throughout the world, was a beneficiary of this unique environment of equality. Born in 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois’ family was a part of the small population of free blacks who had lived in the upper Northeast for decades and who owned land and coexisted with the majority white population. Du Bois’ teachers, family and religious community recognized the young man’s intellectual and academic talent and encouraged him to develop these gifts.

Du Bois received his undergraduate education at Fisk College in Tennessee before moving back to Massachusetts to attend Harvard College. He would eventually graduate cum laude with his second bachelor’s degree, this time in history. After travelling throughout Europe, he returned to Harvard and became the first African American to receive a PhD from the prestigious institution.

Du Bois went on to teach professionally and this began his lifelong campaign to improve the condition of the black population of the United States. Du Bois was a founding member of the NAACP and dedicated his life to the organization, working tirelessly to advance the philosophical, historical and political concept of the equality of black people across the world. On December 12, 1910, Du Bois was initiated into Freemasonry in Widow Son Lodge No. 1. While already dedicated to a life of service it is beyond doubt that the principles of Freemasonry added fuel to the unquenchable fire of equality that already burned within him. Du Bois died on August 27th, 1963, one year short of seeing the Civil Rights Act passed but secure in the knowledge that he had spent his life in the service of human freedom everywhere.

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